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Digging up history at the Texas Zoo

By Gheni_Platenburg
Jan. 13, 2011 at 7:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 12, 2011 at 7:13 p.m.

The paleontological exhibition will have hundreds of fossils of different time periods and different species available for the visitors to touch and compare with the information provided by the zoo. Professionals in the community have donated their time and expertise to make sure the exhibition reaches its goal to educate and unite parents with their children on common activities. To see video of  scenes from the exhibit, go to www.VictoriaAdvocate.com and click on the story.

FEATURED FOSSIL PERIODSCRETACEOUS PERIOD 65.5 million to 145.5 million years ago

Part of the Mesozoic Era

Period of Active Crust Plate Movements

125 million years ago: Africa and India separate from Antarctica

Tertiary Period 65.5 to 2.58 million years ago

63 mya: End of Deccan Traps volcanic eruptions in India

Appearance of placental mammals (marsupials, insectivores, lemuroids, creodonts)

Flowering plants become widespread.

Modern mammals appear: rhinoceros, camels, early horses appear near Popigai, Russia.

NEOGENE PERIOD 23.03 million years ago

African-Arabian plate joined to Asia

14 million years ago: Antarctica separates from Australia and South America circum-polar ocean circulation builds up Antarctic ice cap.

Warmer global climates. First raccoons appear.

Animals and plants cross the new land bridge.

Climate became cooler and drier.

QUATERNARY PERIOD 2.58 million years ago

Development of agriculture

5,500 years ago: Invention of the wheel

5,000 years ago: Development of writing

Visitors to the Texas Zoo will soon be able to dig up some history at the zoo's new archeological dig site.

The hands-on exhibit features fossils from The Cretaceous Period, which took place 65.5 million to 145.5 million years ago, to the Quaternary Period, which stems from 2.58 million years ago to present day.

The dig site, which is housed in the Animal Kingdom Building, is expected to open to the public on Saturday.

"There's now more to do at the zoo, which is what we all have been trying to accomplish," said Andrea Blomberg, executive director at the Zoo. "It's educational play."

The exhibit, which has been in the works since August, includes hundreds of fossils ranging from rocks and Texas Hearts to alligators jaws and fish.

Zoo visitors will be able to use tools to uncover the fossils, which have been embedded in sand, and match them to pictures so diggers know exactly what kind of fossil they have found.

"I think it will be an incredible opportunity for an adult of any age. They can get down on their knees with the kids and play," said Blomberg. "It profoundly increases our educational contributions."

The fossils came from both the Texas Zoo's supply and donations, and the majority of the fossils are native to Texas.

Blomberg said the zoo received an additional $1,500 in donations to cover materials needed to put the exhibit together.

Future plans for the exhibit include creating a timeline around the exhibit's perimeter that will detail the time periods from which the fossils came.

Victorians were excited about the educational and fun opportunities the new exhibit brings.

"A project like this helps bring the zoo into the history of the area," said Larry Henneke, a master naturalist with the Mid-Coast Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists. "When people come to see the animals, they can also have an appreciation of what things were like before man and how man impacts nature."

Texas Zoo animal keeper Arianna Ramirez, 23, expressed similar sentiments.

"I get to know which era things came from and information I didn't know before," Ramirez said. "I like hands-on stuff, too."

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